PHOTOS: BINK DESIGNS / GETSOME PHOTO
AGUA DULCE, CALIF. – Race day four of the Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1000 Presented by Meyers Manx was a dichotomy for competitors. The route included silt, rocks, water crossings, canyons, stunning ocean views and some bottlenecks. Those who were in clean air and flying along the coast were lamenting that they only had a few stages left to race. Those who were stuck up to the frame in silt or trying to cobble together enough parts to get rolling again might have been wishing it was over. This year’s event has to be one of the toughest yet and it’s not totally due to the terrain. The entire field is just much more competitive. Everyone is pushing hard.
Those who have stayed out of trouble are flying. Look at The El Martillo team of Matt Campbell, Rodimiro Amaya, Nicolas Ambriz, Jackson Fleck and Roberto Ruiz Cesena that won special stage two. They have climbed all the way to the top of the standings. They are only 38 minutes behind Steve Menzies who has led the entire way. They have definitely put the hammer down to the delight of the local fans. They know these roads so it’s going to be very interesting on day five!
Third and fourth place overall are the Matlocks. Kristen has passed Wayne for third overall, but only by 1 minute and 33 seconds; that’s one fast tire change. In their Evolution Open UTV class they have over an hour on 3rd place Casey Currie, but PJ Jones is only 4 minutes behind Casey. It may seem like positions are locked in, but it’s not over until the clock stops in San Jose Del Cabo.
If we look at the class leaders it’s either very tight, or over an hour difference in some cases. Sara Price is leading the Evolution Stock Turbo UTV class, but by only 8 minutes over Benjamin Crawford. That’s amazing as Sara won the Sonora rally, and is trying to go for her second straight on the same prep job. Hat’s off to Mitchell Alsup of Alsup Racing Development who is doing the work on her Monster Energy-backed Can-Am Maverick X3. Beau Briggs, Joe Bolton and Kyle Vestermark are in 3rd through 5th places respectively in the highly contested class. There are 28 UTV’s entered in Evolution Stock Turbo UTV.
All throughout the field there are tons of competitors who are battling every day outside the limelight. The number 500 1974 Porsche 914 of Tom Bird, John Koltura, Johnny Koltura, Craig Wagstaff, Ryan Wagstaff and Scott Wagstaff has had a great run so far to lead the Challenger Cars class over Dana Dague, Juan Antonio Sanchez, Cisco Bio, Pancho Bio and Ian Chase in their 1968 VW 5/1600. In the Legend Buggies class you have two buggy legends duking it out. Rich Minga leads Jim Greenway by just over two and a half hours. Only minutes separate the top four in the Vintage 4-cyl Buggies class. The standings show Randy Wilson leading; followed by Chad Cummings, Marty Fiolka and Bob Howle in that order. They are in a limited class with strict rules to make the cars even, but it’s interesting that they are each driving a car from a different builder. Wilson is in a Raceco, Cummings in a Lothringer, Fiolka has a Mirage and Howle a Chenowth.
Larry Trim has been leading the Vintage Short Wheelbase 4×4 class, but has had issues every day that had to be dealt with. He and teammates Tom Allen, John Koeth and Sarah Koeth have had to repair broken parts on their Jeep Cherokee, and dig out of the sand and silt. Once freed from the silt on day 4, they pulled out three other competitors and then had a flat tire on the way to La Paz. They were happy to get there with the sun still out. Despite their challenges, they lead 2nd place Toby and Nicole Pond in their 1988 Mercedes G wagon by just over 11 hours. I’m sure they have their own tales to tell.
In Vintage Class 5, Mike Belk leads Rick Paquette, John Penner and Don Chase. Belk is in the top ten overall in 7th place. Bill Hernquist, Drew Belk and now Hap Kellogg have all had problems. The Vintage Open Trucks class is tight. Dane Cardone leads second place Dave Sykes by 2 minutes. Andrea Tomba is third.
For some good news, all three Vintage Class 11’s are still scoring. Nobody has a tougher time than them. Maybe they could teach other classes how to survive the impossible. The running order is Aida Leon in first, then Joel Ramirez and Cole Bradburn. In the Evolution Era prerun trucks class, Pat Sims is leading the Ford Bronco team made up of Bronco engineers Jamie Groves, Seth Goslawski, Jason Hutter and Brad Lovell. They are doing very important research and development work on the Bronco. It’s all serious business for them. Let the brass in Dearborn know that they are not eating tacos, having fun or smiling at all. Disregard the ear to ear grins in the photos. They have five hours on third place James Sejd and James leads Scott Ulrich by five seconds. Tell me those two aren’t battling to the very end for that last spot on the podium.
Nobody earns every mile like the bikes do. It’s been a dog fight at the front between really everyone in the top ten. Mike Johnson and Matt Sutherland have held the overall lead, but those two with Cade Smith and Ben Shuckburgh have all won stages. Jim Pearson, Scott Purcell, Radek Burkat, Brian Lynn, Clint Skullerud and Matt Storey are all swapping spots in the top ten. They are all more or less within minutes of each other except for Radek Burkat and Brian Lynn. Lynn trails Burkat by only 28 seconds. Only time will tell who comes out where after the many miles are all done. The riders get a double dose of sensory overload as they feel every temperature change, every chill from a cold stream crossing and every skipped heart beat when they roll off a rock or hit a turn a little too hot. And remember, they are doing it all by road book; no GPS. Further still, they travel with only the bare essentials that they can carry. What they are accomplishing is really amazing.
With only the relatively short section from La Paz to the finish line on day 5, you would think it’s all smooth sailing, but that’s not the case. The final miles are technical and it’s so easy to have a lapse in attention with all the cheering fans lining the course. We’ll see how things turn out in stage 5. We will finally see who has the speed and determination to get to the finish. Make sure you go to www.norra.com for all the details.